Project: Narrating the Trial – Transmediating Authenticity

When and how do we believe in a mediation? When and why do we think a mediated narrative to be credible, an "authentic" mediation, which provides knowledge we could not gain by our own experience?

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More about the project

In these times of fake news and alternative facts, it is generally important to better understand how and why mediation appears to be reliable.

This project approaches questions of "authentic" and credible mediation by exploring representations of trials in film, literature and new media. Time and again, it has been proven difficult to pin down the "rhetoric of sincerity" (van Alphen/Bal/Smith 2009), the way in which authenticity is created in mediation.

Authenticity is often referred to as if it were something that is mediated, a slice of "real life", with which media provide us. Authenticity, however, is first created in the act of a mediation, which we may perceive to be truthful and credible.

In this project, we apply theories on the mediation of witnessing (Peters 2001, Krämer 2008). The credibility of a witness does not only depend on what is explicitly said, but is defined by others' trust. The witness vouches with bodily presence, social status, and objectivity for the truth of her statements. In the act of witnessing, this is not always made explicit. Representations of the trial in other media, however, are seen as instances where questions of authenticity, credibility of mediation have to be made explicit. Both the verbal explicitness and formal rigitiy of the trial must be transmediated in representations of the trial in other media. When narrating of trials and witnessing in other media, questions of credibility and authenticity will not only deal with the case discussed in the trial, but they will also highlight the way in which authentic mediation is established in different media.

In this project, film, media and literary scholars collaboratively explore a diversity of material from both actual and fictional trials, including courtroom live-blogging and traditional courtroom journalism, trial scenes in novels, graphic and adolescent novels, and both fictional and documentary film.


Alphen, Ernst van, Mieke Bal and Carel Smith. 2009. The Rhetoric of Sincerity. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press.

Krämer, Sybille. 2008. Medium Bote Übertragung: Kleine Metaphysik der Medialität. Frankfurt/Main: Suhrkamp.

Peters, John Durham 2001. "Witnessing". Media Culture Society. 23. 707-723. DOI: 10.1177/016344301023006002. url: